Kelle seemed to lose more and more of her confidence each week as America’s Next Top Model progressed. Even though her photos weren’t always the worst of the bunch, she endured constant criticism from the panel of judges right up until her exit this week. Find out how she feels about the experience now!
Hi Kelle! What inspired you to try modelling?
Well, I’m tall! People always ask me if I play basketball, and I wanted to be able to say, “No, I model”. My family was very supportive of the idea and they encouraged me to try it.
As you were leaving the apartment you seemed to be having doubts about a future in modelling. Have you made any decisions about what you want to do now?
I didn’t doubt that I wanted to be a model – I do. I was more doubtful that anyone would contact me for work! I love to model.
Have you been contacted yet?
No, not by agencies yet. But I’ve had a lot of fan support.
You had a valid complaint when you asked Jay not to tell you that you were doing great when you weren’t. How frustrating was the lack of direction and feedback for you during the shoots?
Well to be honest, I don’t think Jay liked me. I felt he was giving me a verbal spanking for saying something.
During the shoots, the photographers would be saying “great, great” so I thought it was really good. Then the panel would tear me down week after week.
The judges’ comments towards you seemed especially harsh. Were you surprised to hear what they were saying behind closed doors when you saw it on television?
Definitely. I’m very sensitive, and I was really trying to give them what they were asking for. You know, they’d tell me things and I’d be thinking “I don’t know anything! Help me!” I can take constructive criticism just fine.
Maybe they were like that because I was so confident going in, they wanted to bring me down a bit.
That leads to the next question – you were very confident when the show started, and then each week you got more and more self-conscious and unsure. Have you been able to bounce back and regain your sense of self?
Surprisingly, I think I’m even more confident now than before I went on the show!
I left there with a smile on my face, I held no grudges with anyone. I walked away and held my head up high. If I can live through that I must be one tough cookie!
You were criticized for being ‘too white’. What was up with that?
You know, I know I’m black. I happened to notice that when I looked in the mirror this morning. I don’t understand how a person acts, dresses, speaks can define their race. They all said that I needed to embrace being black; I’ve embraced it. I know who I am.
Out of the girls who are left, who do you think stands the best chance at becoming America’s Next Top Model?
It’s hard to say. I was sure I’d at least make top two, and look at me! Things change, the judges change their minds about what they’re looking for. One week someone is golden and the next they’re leaving.
Which judge do you think was the toughest?
Hmm, I don’t know. You’d think it would be Janice, because she’s so outlandish. She just says whatever she’s thinking and you can’t take her seriously. It’s funny though, because when we were away from the judging panel Janice was incredibly nice. She told us all the time that she loved us, and she was funny and warm. She can definitely separate the judging from the rest of it.
I guess the toughest judge would be Nigel. He’s just tough and unsympathetic.
What was going through your head when Tyra was making her speech to you and Ann at the elimination?
I was okay with it – either way I was fine. I was thinking that if I stay, I’ll give it my best but if I leave then I tried my hardest. Really though I was tired of being beaten down every week so it wasn’t all that bad to go.
How did you come to own an art gallery at such a young age?
When I was 18 I was working at a gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut. I was travelling to New york to do research for Sotheby’s auctions and things like that. I was learning all about art and art history, artists, just everything about the art world.
One time when I came back to the gallery in Connecticut, I found all kinds of pieces just sitting on the floor in the back and I thought “This is money just laying around in here”. So I got them all together and sorted out and researched and I put them online. Eventually I started to wonder why I was doing all this work for someone else when I could be doing it for myself, so I opened my gallery online.
And your gallery is named after your father, is that right?
Yes, it’s called the Oswald Cleveland Gallery.
Is there anything else you’d like to add Kelle, about your experience on the show?
Just that I’m okay! Believe it or not, I’ve taken really good pictures and I actually am photogenic. And I’m not that emotional normally – I felt that they caught one or two instances of me crying and threw them in every episode.
Thanks very much for your time Kelle, and good luck to you!
You can check out Kelle’s online gallery at oswaldcleveland.com.
Comments are welcome! If you have something to say, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.